Op-ed: The Stoning Problem Isn't Just in Brunei

When stoning gets discussed as a viable punishment in Smalltown, USA.

BY Josh Merritt

May 16 2014 3:27 AM ET

In the last month or so, a New York City pastor and the nation of Brunei have called for the stoning of gays. With each declaration, gay people seem to react in shock and awe, but if they would look in their own backyards, they would see that talk about stoning gays is a lot more common in this country than they would think. It's just hidden well.    

The year was 2007, and I was a junior at a small Baptist high school in Maryland. My friend had just gotten kicked out of school for supporting gay rights on social media, and it had shifted the entire atmosphere of the school. After all, the issue of homosexuality was rarely discussed, and when it was brought up, it was always talked about as quickly as possible. Now, confronted with the issue, it seemed like the school's administration was taking a harsher approach. I never would have imagined just how harsh the stance that they would take, when no one from the outside was paying attention.

The principal, an affable man in his 50s who also happened to be the Bible teacher, wore a friendly disposition as he entered the classroom the day after the expulsion. I sat there, waiting to hear him talk about the scheduled Bible lesson for the day. The moment he opened his mouth, I knew that the lesson for today had gone out the window. He was going to address my friend's expulsion.

"What sins does the Bible say should be punishable by death?" he said.

"Witchcraft," one student said.

"Correct," he said. "And what are the other sins?"

"Homosexuality and sexual immorality," another student said.

From that point on, the principal went into a 20-minute lecture about homosexuality and what a threat it caused to the world. He then went on to state that in God's perfect world all homosexuals would be stoned and that he could not wait for the day for that to happen. I sat there, mouth agape, as the friendly Christians who often brought up God's love toward everybody voiced their true opinions about homosexuals that focused more on hate than love. Then I realized, this probably is a lot more common in evangelical circles than Americans would like to think.

It's clear to me that the "death to gays" mentality still exists here in the U.S., and it has changed my perception of Christians and how they portray themselves. The "love the sinner and hate the sin" excuse is no longer is credible to me. Would they not condemn atrocious bills killing gays in Uganda and Brunei from the pulpit if they truly believed that God loves homosexuals? Don't they have a responsibility as Christians to get outraged when they hear about the murder of innocent lives around the world? The answer is yes, but some Christians out there don't say anything because they agree that homosexuality is something that should be punished in one way or another.

So as we hear more about the atrocious laws that would punish gay people with torturous death, remember that there are those in your own backyard who believe the same thing. Hatred toward our community is not just something that exists in Brunei or Uganda or the Westboro Baptist Church. It also exists in unlikely places where people use soft voices and caring expressions to convince others that our community does not have a right to exist. These people are a lot bigger threat to our community than those who state "Jesus would stone homos" on their church's billboard because they lure people in with a message of love then get them to believe their hateful ways.

JOSH MERRITT is a grocery store clerk by day, and I'm a  writer, blogger, and all around political nerd by night. I  live in Portland, Oregon with my husband Keven and cat Vivienne. In my spare time, I also like hiking, building things, and doing anything outdoorsy. Follow him @writingwithjosh on Twitter, if you so fancy.

Tags: Commentary

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